ORANGE, Texas — Where Mike McClelland is concerned, the dateline should be Houston instead of Orange for the Bassmaster Elite at the Sabine River presented by STARK Cultural Venues. McClelland is running 114 miles to Galveston Bay before making his first cast of the day.
And that's even with the fog delays that shortened the days to a 9 a.m. start Thursday and a 9:40 a.m. launch Friday.
"Based on the practice I've had in the Sabine River area, I told myself if I could fish for just one hour, I would go," said McClelland, who is in seventh place with a two-day total of 20 pounds, 15 ounces. "As long as I can go over there and fish for one hour, I'll continue to go over there."
His plan is even more of a gamble because of the tide. It has been wrong when he arrived both days.
"It has to be moving," McClelland said. "If it's flat, like it was yesterday when I got there and today, the tide has to start moving before the fish start biting. Yesterday I fished probably 40 minutes before I got a bite. Today, I don't think I caught one until well after noon."
To be exact, it was 1:24 p.m. when McClelland caught his first fish, according to BASSTrakk. McClelland had only four keepers Friday. His others came at 1:40, 1:42 and 2:08. Then it was time to head back.
That's a nerve-wracking and particularly short day. But it paid off for McClelland in 2013, when he finished 11th, and it's paying off again this time.
"If this was a 12-inch length limit tournament (instead of 14 inches), it would be a blast in the Sabine," McClelland said. "But the number of shorts you have to go through to catch a keeper in the Sabine is three times what it is over there.
"It just makes more sense to go over there where you think you can catch a 14-inch fish."
McClelland thinks he might have put a strain on the number of keepers in his Galveston Bay area two years ago. On Day 4, he weighed only two bass totaling 3-9, which dropped him from eighth place to 11th. And he's concerned about that again.
He can't see the bass on spawning beds because of the lack of water clarity. But he knows that's what he's catching.
"The big one I caught today, there's no doubt she was a bedding fish," McClelland said. "I caught the male near a laydown 15 minutes before I came back and caught her."
There's a new moon tonight, and it also happens to be a "super moon," which is a full or new moon that occurs during the moon's closest approach to Earth on its elliptical orbit. That combination could trigger a wave of new fish moving in to spawn.
"That's all I can hope for right now, that there's a push of better than average fish in these areas I'm fishing and they repopulate," McClelland said. "I really don't know if I have enough time to venture out much more, so I feel like I have to fish the primary spawning areas I'm in."
Well, he does have one more major concern: Time. If the fog rolls in thick again tonight, McClelland may be forced to abandon his plan Saturday.
"If we take off on time, there's no doubt where I'll go," he said. "If (launch time) gets backed up like it did today, I may have to make a decision to punt and go somewhere else."